2 Harv. Hum. Rts. J. 197 (1989)
Police Aid and Central America: The Reagan Years

handle is hein.journals/hhrj2 and id is 203 raw text is: POLICE AID AND CENTRAL AMERICA: The Reagan Years
Congress passed the Omnibus Drug Control Act (Omnibus Act)
on October 21, 1988,1 authorizing the training of foreign police forces
for narcotics control activities.2 It adopted this provision pursuant to
a longstanding waiver of the statutory ban on police aid to foreign
governments. The ban, section 660 of the Foreign Assistance Act of
1961,3 was enacted in two parts, in 1973 and 1974,4 in response to
evidence that United States funds supported foreign police forces that
had committed human rights abuses.
The Omnibus Act marked the last in a series of largely successfil
attempts during the Reagan years to use and broaden such waivers in
order to supply assistance to foreign police.5 President Reagan's efforts
were most effective when he framed his proposals in terms of fighting
drugs, combating terrorism and promoting democracy and the ad-
ministration of justice. This Note traces the history of police aid,
examines the ways in which the Reagan Administration secured waiv-
ers to section 660 and places the debate over police aid in the context
of United States human rights and foreign policy in Central America.
President Dwight Eisenhower introduced police aid in 1954. The
Public Safety Program, under the Agency for International Develop-
ment (AID), was intended to defend against the threat of Soviet-
linked communist subversion.6 The Office of Public Safety (OPS)
1. Omnibus Drug Control Act of 1988, Pub. L. No. 100-690, 102 Stat. 4181 (1988) (not
yet codified) [hereinafter Omnibus Act].
2. Id.  4204(e).
3. Original version, Pub. L. No. 87-195, 75 Stat. 424 (1961), codified at Chapter 32 of 22
U.S.C.,  215la-2429a-1. The act is amended in virtually every congressional session.
4. The first police ban amendment required the Office of Public Safety (OPS), run by the
Agency for International Development (AID) to phase out its operations and withdraw all
OPS advisors by June 30, 1974, terminating police training abroad. See An Act to Amend the
Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, Pub. L. No. 93-189,  112, 87 Star. 716 (1973). The
amendment in the following year prohibited training of foreign police in the United States. See
Foreign Assistance Act of 1974, Pub. L. No. 93-559,  30(a), 88 Stat. 1804 (1974). Together,
both amendments became  660 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and are codified at 22
U.S.C.  2420 (1982).
5. The 1988 police aid waiver first discussed in Congress would have been far broader than
that currently permitted had congressional foes of such assistance not resisted the effort. See infra
notes 21, 22. Language in the Omnibus Act calls for such assistance notwithstanding the
prohibition contained in section 660, which already allowed the waiver of drug-control-related
activities. Compare Omnibus Act, supra note 1,  4204(e) with Foreign Assistance Act of 1961,
 660(b)(1), 22 U.S.C.  2420 (1982 & Supp. IV 1986) (the police aid ban does not apply to
activities under the authority of the Drug Enforcement Administration).
6. The program targeted especially those countries threatened by internal subversion. It was
premised on the belief that professionalization of police forces would guarantee respect for civil
liberties and human rights and help establish the law and order necessary for economic growth
and development of democratic institutions. See Lefever, The Military Assistance Training Program,
ANNALS, Mar. 1976, 85-95, cited in L. SCHOuLTz, HUMAN RIGHTS AND UNITED STATES
POLIcY TOWARD LATIN AMERIcA 243 (1981); see also REPORT TO CONGRESS BY  THE COMP-

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